Colonialist attitudes and the need to raise our voices to set record straight

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Colonialist attitudes towards products from small island states, which threaten the margins of major global corporate companies, are not new. They have been around since ancient times and will continue to exist for as long as our people try their very best to fulfill their God-given potential in all areas of life.

Keep in mind there is no limit to the lengths these global conglomerates will go in a bid to discredit and ensure any threat to their existence is eliminated swiftly and quickly. A classic example is the conspiracy against kava, which is a continuing fight for the Pacific. Then there is the war against our humble coconut oil which generations and generations of our people – including us today – swear by its benefits and medicinal value.

And yet out there in the fiercely competitive world of cosmetic products, despite the coconut oil being proven as a miracle product, the amount of naysayers sneering at its potential is truly mind-boggling.

The latest one arrived last week with the headline “Warning for fans of coconut oil skin products” published by the Daily Mail. The story quotes experts who said the coconut oil product might actually be bad for your skin.

And who are these experts? Well, according to the story, one of them is Dr. Yannis Alexandrides. And yes, you guessed it, he is the Founder of London-based brand 111Skin, which obviously means he has vested interests in discrediting coconut oil for the sake of his products.

Now according to this so-called expert, he claims that using coconut oil as a moisturiser can clog up pores by trapping moisture beneath the skin. The story goes on to say that this can lead to inflammation and breakouts, particularly if you’ve already got oily skin.

“[Coconut oil is] an occlusive moisturiser and so hydrates by trapping moisture beneath the skin and essentially clogging pores; because of this, if you suffer from or have acne-prone skin it can often do more harm than good,” he said.

“One of the main causes of acne is excess oil; consequently, rubbing more oil on your skin can lead to clogging of hair follicles and, ultimately, can lead to inflammation and breakouts.”

The claims become even more bizarre. About extra virgin coconut oil, he said this is even worse for clogging pores than liquid coconut oil, despite being higher in nutrients. He then suggested that trying alternatives to coconut oil such as hazelnut and grapeseed oil would be a better option.

Okay then. We live in a free world where people are allowed to express what they feel. Dr. Alexandrides is entitled to his opinion and that is fine. 

But why didn’t he just advocate for his products – including hazelnut and grapeseed oil - instead? Was there a need to knock the benefits of coconut oil in their bid to promote the value of what they are offering? 

This is precisely what we mean when we talk about colonialist attitudes. There was absolutely no need to try and discredit the benefits of coconut oil. But because they think what they had to say and offer is far more superior, they think they can just chuck any rubbish out there and people will believe it.

Thankfully that is no longer the case. And our people are recognizing this and they are standing up for our products.

 “People living in the Pacific and Asia have relied on coconuts for generations and these countries were among the healthiest in the world until countries started exporting their processed food to us,” said W.I.B.D.I. Executive Director, Adi Tafuna’i, who went on to raise an interesting point.

She said it is worth noting that coconuts grow in mostly poorer developing countries and when giant commercial companies use negative marketing strategies to kill the coconut industries in those struggling economies such as Samoa, “we need to be active in getting the real information out.”

She noted that when W.I.B.D.I started the coconut oil project in 1997, they reached out to the late Dr. Mary Enig who was one of the world’s foremost authorities on fats and oils. She pioneered research on coconut oil during a time when it was misjudged. Thanks to Dr. Enig’s efforts and research, it is now widely known that coconut oil promotes optimum health and the world wants it.

“Working in the U.S, Dr. Enig was aware of how big players were pushing their businesses and they actually tried to conceal the information. She travelled extensively to coconut growing countries to encourage them to continue and get the information out,” Tafuna’i said. “We contacted her about speaking on a video we did based on her telling us to do all we can to promote the information about coconut oil.”

Sylvie Salanoa, of Mailelani, has heard many variations of the claims before.

 “We’ve been in this business now for a long time, 20 years. Rarely have we heard a complaint and we are still here today and we are growing. I’m not saying it’s us, at the end of the day the successful results from the coconut oil speaks for itself,” she said. “Coconut is a very good moisturizer. The oil that is made in Samoa is quite special, its consistency is quite thin and it goes straight into your skin, to me I don’t see how it blocks the pores. You only need to use a little bit of it because it’s so moisturising and I always say if your skin is shiny then you have put too much on.

“We have done a lot of research that supports the many benefits of the oil. It heals acne and boils and everything we say is through experience and through the feedback of our customers.”

Managing Director of Samoa Coconut Clusters, Edwin Tamasese, shares the same views.

 “Our best defense is information. The web has revolutionised this for us. There are now rather large commercial interests behind the coconut that are gathering and publishing more and more counter information using scientifically based research,” he said. “We have used coconut oil for centuries and are better for it. I feel like the world is waking up to the negative marketing campaigns by commercial interests hiding behind corrupt medical and scientific fronts. In my view it actually makes them look more the fools for persisting to use these tactics.”

We couldn’t agree more. So let’s not stay silent about this Samoa – and everyone in small island states for that matter. We’ve got a powerful voice as a collective and we cannot allow these colonialists attitudes to dictate what we can and cannot do.

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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